Dominique Heaggan-Brown Acquitted in Shooting Death of Sylville Smith

Posted June 26, 2017

A former Milwaukee police officer whose fatal shooting of a black man previous year ignited two days of rioting in the Wisconsin city was found not guilty Wednesday of first-degree reckless homicide.

A jury on Wednesday acquitted Heaggan-Brown of first-degree reckless homicide in the killing of Sylville Smith, a 23-year-old black man, on August 13, 2016.

Judge Jeffrey Conen has advised the jury to consider lesser charges.

Heaggan-Brown had previously said he believed Smith "was reaching for his waist so he discharged his weapon a second time".

The protests against Heaggan-Brown played out mostly on the north side in the Sherman neighborhood of Milwaukee. The Milwaukee Police Department fired him because of those charges, for which he is expected to stand trial in August, just after the first anniversary of Smith's death.

"Try as hard as you can to be peaceful and form unity with each other, period". The jury deliberated about 10 hours.

"That first shot was a justifiable shot and that justification did not change in 1.69 seconds", Smith said, alluding to the time that transpired before the first and second shot. The officer was sacked two months after the shooting when he was charged in an unrelated sexual assault. He was reportedly armed when he led officers on a foot chase, and Heaggan-Brown's lawyers argued that the former officer was acting in self-defense. Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith after a traffic stop and a short pursuit. The killings of Freddie Gray, Philando Castile, Akai Gurley and Delrawn Small all involved officers of color.

Heaggan-Brown's attorney also declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Prosecutors argued Smith was defenseless at the time of the second shot because he had thrown the gun over the fence. Yesterday (June 21), a jury acquitted the officer-who was sacked following an internal investigation into his alleged off-duty sexual assault-of first-degree reckless homicide.

Heaggan-Brown's acquittal is the latest in a string of similar verdicts or deadlocked juries to follow charges against police officers for using deadly force.

Heaggan-Brown was sacked from the police force in October after being charged with sexual assault in an unrelated case. His attorney argued to jurors that the justification for the first shot clearly carried over to the less-than-a-second that passed before Heaggan-Brown chose to shoot again, as Smith continued moving. Nine women and three men sat on the jury, and four of them were African Americans. "I really don't want them to act irrationally toward the cops, because all cops ain't bad", he said. The verdict was to be read Wednesday afternoon. After the second shot, Smith's arms and legs are still moving and he appears to bring his left hand toward his waistband.